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“Intent without action will leave every word that I use to describe my intent as empty and best never said.”

 Craig D. Lounsbrough


Imagine you ask someone to do something and they agree. You count on it, and then come to find they didn’t do it. How are you feeling? Chances are you feel frustrated and disappointed. You also lose trust in this person.

One of the eight values that build trust is follow-through on commitments. When others or we don’t, our faith is shaken.


Some examples of how we do this ourselves are when we make a New Year’s resolution we don’t keep, when we say we’ll call and we don’t, and every time we’re late to an event. Whenever we fail to follow through on a commitment, whether large or small, we may not realize it, but we are weakening our conviction and faith that we are a person who can be counted on.


When others fail to complete, attend, or deliver things they’ve committed to do, provide or be, we lose confidence in them due to the betrayal we feel. We stop believing they’re reliable because they aren’t. Why do we fail to follow through on commitments? One reason is we often are not in full alignment when we agree to a task or activity. A part of us is not considering the decision fully, nor the possible consequences of our choice. So, unconsciously, we are either rebelling, resisting or resentfully complying, which automatically leads to mediocrity or absent follow-through.


Another reason is we take on competing commitments without realizing it, and choose a new commitment as priority over the original one. I commit to lose 10 pounds and I don’t realize that along the way, I over-rode that commitment with my decision to have a hot fudge sundae. That’s why when confronted with poor follow-through, many people say, “I’m sorry; I really intended to do that.” They did. They just failed to see the moment in time when they chose a different priority and dropped a commitment. Saying it was not our intention to drop our commitment is not helpful. Seeing where we did, is.


Another reason we fail to follow through is because we are uncomfortable discussing a change in our commitment for fear others may disapprove or get angry with us. They do so anyway, so letting them know in advance when you change course is helpful to supporting what they need rather than unexpectedly disappointing them when you fail to deliver, which then brings upon you the very things you were trying to avoid.


What do we do when facing poor follow through?

The best thing we can do is communicate how a person’s behavior affected us and what we want instead. Here’s a formula for doing this.

State the specific behavior you don’t like. For example, “I don’t like it when you agree to deliver an assignment by a specific date and time and then you don’t provide it.”

Let them know the overarching desire you have and your unmet needs. “I want to be able to count on your word and trust you. I want organization in our practices so nothing slips through the cracks.”

Ask for specific behavior changes. You may have more than one. “When you commit to an assignment, will you report on your progress midway?

If you feel you are not able to deliver on an assignment alone, will you ask for support?

Will you give me 24 hours notice if you’re not going to follow-through on a commitment?

What’s important is that you know what you need to rebuild and maintain trust so you don’t drop your commitment to maintain trust between you and others. If it is you who’s not following through on commitments, consciously focus on gaining mastery over meaning what you say and saying what you mean or you will be paying a price you may not even realize.

To help measure the trust levels within your organization, call me for an assessment so together we can reduce any gaps in trust you have. Reducing gaps in trust translates into happier employees, happier customers and greater financial, emotional and social results.


Why People Hire Judy Ryan and LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace and recognize a systems approach ensures consistency and sustainability in the transformation process. They know that conscientious employees grow your business and improve your reputation, giving you competitive advantages. We help organizations instill into every person a common language and toolset for how to participate in a responsibility-based Teal workplace. Visit our website at www.lifeworksystems.com, and click the link at the bottom to complete a culture assessment and schedule your first consult to review a report on your feedback, all at no cost.  You can also contact Judy Ryan at 314.239.4727 or at judy@lifeworksystems.com.


This article was published nationally in The Women’s Journal in Judy’s column Emotional Intelligence, April 2013.